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ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW review: You don't need Max-Q to make a slim laptop

By Koh Wanzi - 28 Aug 2019
Launch SRP: S$3998

Productivity & gaming performance

Test setup and performance

Here's a full list of the notebooks we're looking at:

  • ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW
  • ASUS ROG Strix Scar III GL531GW
  • Acer Predator Triton 500
  • Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA

I've chosen the ROG Strix Scar III GL531GW as a reference point as it's also configured with a GeForce RTX 2070 and single-channel memory. Finally, the Acer Predator Triton 500 and Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA are there to provide an idea of how the Zephyrus S stacks up against competing Max-Q laptops. 

Test notebooks compared
  ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW ASUS ROG Strix Scar III GL531GW Acer Predator Triton 500 Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA
  ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW ASUS ROG Strix Scar III GL531GW Acer Predator Triton 500 Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA
Launch SRP
  • From S$3998
  • From S$3598
  • From S$3198
  • From S$3799
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz, 12MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz, 12MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz, 12MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz, 12MB L3 cache)
Operating System
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 10
System Memory
  • 16GB DDR4-2666 single-channel RAM
  • 16GB DDR4-2666 single-channel RAM
  • 16GB DDR4-2666 dual-channel RAM
  • 16GB DDR4-2666 dual-channel RAM
Video & Display
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 144Hz G-Sync IPS-type display
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 240Hz IPS-type display
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 144Hz IPS display
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
  • 15.6-inch 3,840 x 2,160-pixel AMOLED display
Storage
  • Samsung PM981 PCIe 1TB M.2 SSD
  • Intel 660p 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Intel 760p 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Optical Drive
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
Connectivity
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9560
  • Realtek PCIe GbE Family Controller
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9560
  • Realtek PCIe GbE Family Controller
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Killer E3000 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Controller
  • Killer Wireless-AC 1550i Wireless Network Adapter
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Killer Ethernet E2600
  • Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 Wireless Network Adapter
  • Bluetooth 5.0
Audio
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in stereo speakers
I/O Ports
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 and PD charging
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-A
  • 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A
  • 1x HDMI 2.0b
  • 1x RJ-45
  • 3x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C
  • 1x HDMI 2.0b
  • 1x RJ-45
  • 3x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.4
  • 3x USB 3.1 (Gen1) Type-A
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x DP 1.4 & USB3.1 (USB Type-C)
  • 1x 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
  • 1x UHS-II SD Card Reader
  • 1x DC-in Jack
  • 1x RJ-45
Battery Type
  • 76Wh
  • 66Wh
  • 84Wh
  • 94.24Wh
Dimensions
  • 360 x 252 x 18.9mm
  • 360 x 275 x 24.9mm
  • 358.5 x 255 x 17.9mm
  • 356 x 250 x 20mm
Weight
  • 1.99kg
  • 2.57kg
  • 2kg
  • 2kg

I ran the notebooks through the following benchmarks:

  • PCMark 10
  • AS SSD
  • 3DMark
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Far Cry 5
  • Metro Exodus
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Tom Clancy's The Division 2

 

How good is it for work?

PCMark 10 Extended evaluates systems based on workloads that can be categorized into four distinct groups, comprising Essentials, Productivity, Digital Content Creation, and Gaming. This includes tests such as app start-up times, web browsing, word processing and spreadsheets, photo and video editing, and rendering and visualization tasks. Finally, gaming performance is evaluated using the Fire Strike benchmark. 

Despite its single-channel memory configuration, the ROG Zephyrus S didn't suffer too much in PCMark 10, and it was more or less neck-and-neck with the other dual-channel laptops. 

However, a closer look at the score breakdown shows that both the ROG Zephyrus S and the ROG Strix Scar III lagged in the Digital Content Creation workload, possibly because of the limited memory bandwidth offered by the single-channel setup. 

 

What's the storage performance like? 

The ROG Zephyrus S is equipped with a sizeable 1TB Samsung PM981 PCIe M.2 SSD.  Sequential write performance was very competitive with the other laptops, but it couldn't really keep up when it came to sequential read speeds. However, it stood out in the higher queue depth workloads, handily beating most of the other laptops by a fair margin. 

 

How fast is it in games?

Nowhere are the downsides of having single-channel memory more obvious than in games. Since the problem is supposedly with the way games or applications manage system memory, you don't see the same deficits everywhere. For example, 3DMark and Metro Exodus appear unaffected, and all the laptops turned out numbers that were pretty close to one another.

In fact, the Zephyrus S had a slight edge in 3DMark, inching ahead in the Fire Strike, DirectX 12 Time Spy, and Port Royal ray tracing benchmarks. It's just a pity that it's not able to replicate that performance in most games, where it is punished heavily for having just a single RAM stick. 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a good example of the massive performance deficit you can expect. The ROG Strix Scar III with dual-channel memory (which isn't a default configuration) was a good 36 per cent faster, an idea of the kind of performance you should be able to achieve with the Zephyrus S, if only ASUS shipped it with two memory modules. 

Similarly, the dual-channel ROG Strix Scar III was 30 per cent quicker in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. That's the difference between sailing past its Max-Q competitors or languishing behind them. For S$3,998, I think you should expect nothing less.

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7.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 6
  • Mobility 7.5
The Good
GeForce RTX 2070 Max-P in the body of a Max-Q notebook
Slim, compact and modern design
Great build quality
144Hz display with G-Sync support
The Bad
Single-channel memory results in huge performance deficits while gaming
Fans can get quite noisy
Average battery life
No Thunderbolt 3
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